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I joined a research group of a faculty member in 201x, and worked with her for three years. During that time, I collaborated with a large hospital to perform research in the domain of medical informatics. I spoke about my research at two conferences; one was a talk, and the other was a poster presentation. My advisor asked me to write up the research in a paper around the second year, which I did. Around the third year, I decided to switch research groups, because of the relationship between me and my advisor going sour, and not having funding from her (I used to work part-time to fund my PhD research).

Once this happened, she withdrew her support from me publishing my paper and ordered that I give up my work to a fellow grad student. I told her, that my manuscript is in its Nth revision, and that I would like to take it to completion as first author. She was dismissive and didn’t offer any comments on my work. I told her, that, should I pass on my work, I would like to discuss authorship issues in advance, which she wasn’t ready to discuss. She ganged up my new advisor against me, and together they forced me to give up my code, results, paper drafts. I had to then leave the university without a degree.

Fast forward couple of years, I receive an email from a student in her lab (the student whom I had to hand over my work to), saying that they are publishing a paper, and have decided I am the fourth author. I read the paper and found out that it uses my experimental setup and design, data collection, and one of the ideas I had presented (the idea wasn’t the main crux of my paper, but I believe it was novel).

I want to

  • Publish my original draft in ArXiv/BioArXiv, as first author.

  • Request my advisor to cite my work in their publication.

Given how she behaved with me, I know that despite what I am asking for sounds fair, she is likely to object.

I am asking the community: Can I go ahead and ArXiv it without her permission? I could add her as an author, but not take her permission. Also, if you have any other ideas on how to deal with this situation please let me know.

(For the record, this was at a top-10 school in the US in an engineering department).

1 Answer 1

A paper must not be published without the (explicit or implicit) consent of all coauthors. This holds true for preprint servers as the arXiv just as for journals, etc.

Given the state of your relationship, there is no basis for assuming implicit consent of your former supervisor. Thus, submitting the paper to the arXiv with your former supervisor as coauthor without asking her is not an option.

You might be able to make a case that she should not be considered a coauthor. My understanding of the norms in your field is that the default assumption is that supervisors are coauthors - so your case would need to be strong enough to overcome that assumption.

This will depend on what your goals are, but in most cases, I would suspect that being some middle author on the paper they want to publish now might be the better outcome for you than having the original paper as single author on the arXiv, and a nasty publication ethics dispute.